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In the ’80s, former Swell Maps guitarist Nikki Sudden and fellow Keith Richards lookalike Dave Kusworth formed the Jacobites. The English romantic rogues sported leather pants, mascara, ruffles, velvet, andmost importantlyscarves. Sudden and Kusworth crooned songs of love, unrequited or otherwise, with a ragtag charm, sounding as if their nasal voices had just come off a steady diet of filterless cigarettes and cheap whiskey. Their bittersweet lyrics evoked rainy days and late nights; their music, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. The Chamber Strings recall Sudden and Kusworth to such an extent that the Chicago band’s debut CD, Gospel Morning, could be mistaken for a long-lost Jacobites record in a blindfold test. The Jacobites have spent much of the ’90s apart (only recently returning with the album God Save Us Poor Sinners); Chamber Strings frontman Kevin Junior spent some of that time performing with Sudden (as well as with Sudden’s brother, Epic Soundtracks, who died in 1997). From his bedhead hair to his acoustic-guitar odes to l’amour, Junior has mastered the tenets of the Jacobites’ scarf rock, even appearing on the CD cover looking glum and cold, with his darkened eyes staring down and a houndstooth muffler draped around his neck. “Tragic lives have spoken/Life still stays open/On holidays,” Junior sings on the dreamy album opener, “Flashing Star,” in a considerably smoother voice than either Jacobite. From the sublimely off-kilter soul pop of “Everyday Is Christmas” to the dirty blues of “Dead Man’s Poise” and “Cold, Cold Meltdown,” Junior makes his way around Big Star harmonies and Black Crowes riffs like an A-plus student of rock ‘n’ roll. And the loping “All of
Your Life” will inspire an investigation to see if Sudden and Kusworth are credited as co-writers. The Chamber Strings may be the Jacobites’ doppelgänger, but two of anything this good are worth cherishing.Christopher Porter